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Hi-tech meets traditional metalwork crafts at Brunel University

Applying a qualification in decorative metalwork to technological research, is somewhat unusual.

Dr Sarah Silve, Research Fellow in the School of Engineering and Design at Brunel University, in Uxbridge, West London, is a rare academic with such a background: she is using her skills to make geometric and mathematical designs in silver and other metals, with the use of lasers.

“Currently, all my pieces are experimental,“ she explains. “They are all researched beforehand and repeatable. I try to make things that you can't make by any other means.“

The technique, called laser forming, means the heat from the laser compresses the metal and causes it to bend.

Sarah Silve completed a BA in Metalwork and Jewellery at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College (BCUC) in 1995 and went on to work as a jeweller for an independent retailer.

She was invited to join The Laser Group at the University of Liverpool, in 1997, for a joint project with BCUC to research the potential of laser forming for creating designer metalwork.

Sarah joined Brunel University after she completed her doctorate in 2001, and she set up a laser facility to continue her research.

She points out that her objets d'art “are not cheaper, or quicker“ to make “though it depends on what you're creating.“ Laser forming “can be combined with traditional techniques,“ she said.

Her current project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is to discover if silversmiths and other artist metalworkers would use this technology, and if so, how it could be integrated into traditional craft practice.

Sarah is offering to demonstrate the laser forming process. Anyone interested should contact her: e-mail:; website:

Her work is currently on show in the exhibition, “Moving Forward: Science, Engineering and Art“ at the Beldam Gallery in Brunel University, Cleveland Road, Uxbridge, Middx, until September 8 , 2006 (closed weekends and Bank Holidays). Tel: 01895 266074